Special from Sydney: Misunderstanding Paris

Reporters, columnists and even consultants often misunderstand urban areas and urban terms. The result can be absurd statements that compare the area in which the writer lives to somewhere else where the grass is inevitably greener, bringing to mind an expensive competitiveness report that suggested St. Louis should look to Cleveland as a model. Sometimes this is the result of just not understanding and other times it results from listening to itinerant missionaries from idealized areas who have no sense of the reality.

A most recent example is from the Sydney Morning Herald, one of Australia’s largest and most respected newspapers.

Columnist Elizabeth Farrelly told her readers that Paris covers one-quarter the land area (urban footprint) of Sydney and has a population of 5.5 million. In fact, the urban footprint of Paris is at least five times larger and the population nearly double.


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